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10 November 2020

Brexit and Covid should prompt UK defence cooperation with Germany

Closer cooperation is a "largely untapped resource"

Germany and the UK

UK-Germany defence cooperation: Bridging the political and military gaps

Read the report

The disruption caused by Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic should spur the UK to work more closely with Germany on defence issues, according to a new report.


Published by the Policy Institute at King’s College London, the report says closer cooperation is a “largely untapped resource” that could make more efficient use of the two countries’ assets. The move would help ease pressures on defence budgets, which are likely to come under strain in light of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU and the economic fallout from Covid-19.


Greater defence cooperation would also help strengthen European security, which in recent years has been threatened by increasing hostility from Russia and instability along the continent’s southern borders.


To date, cooperation between the UK and Germany “followed convenience and random opportunity rather than strategic planning,” the report says.


To get more from the relationship, it recommends a range of options, which could serve as the basis for a military cooperation treaty, similar to the Lancaster House Treaty between the UK and France. The authors argue this would send a strong political signal that the UK remains a key player in continental Europe despite leaving the EU, which is in Germany’s interests too.


The report recommends that:

  • The UK and Germany work together to fill gaps in their individual surveillance and intelligence capabilities – although the UK must ensure this complies with Five Eyes intelligence-sharing agreements.
  • Both countries explore opportunities for jointly developing technologies used in their respective future combat air systems, FCAS and Tempest.
  • Germany participates in the UK’s Complex Weapons Programme, in order to strengthen European defence capability and reduce German reliance on the US for missiles.
  • Germany explores leasing P-8 Poseidon aircraft, so that it can cooperate with the UK and Norway on maritime warfare issues.

The report was supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation and produced by researchers from the German Council on Foreign Relations.


The British and German armed forces have only just recovered from capability reductions and budget cuts after the last financial crisis in 2008. They now look set to take another hit, as a result of the economic crisis caused by Covid-19, while the UK faces additional disruption caused by Brexit. Greater cooperation on defence between the two countries could go some way to alleviating these pressures and help safeguard Europe from growing threats.

Christian Mölling, Research Director at the German Council on Foreign Relations

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